We’ve all heard them – cute little three year-olds trying out new words. I heard one recently, and it got my attention. Certainly it was cute how the little girl said the word she was working hard to say, but it stopped me in my tracks when I thought about her mispronunciation of the word “association.”

It came out, “Sociassociation”.

Could it be that this three-year-old’s slip-of-the-tongue actually defined what many member organizations are faced with today? Members once aligned because of a like industry, craft or interests who, in the past, found personal and professional growth in physical presence with each other through association are now growing personally and professionally through a virtual connectedness. Or, by being part of a “Sociassociation.”

Sociassociation is the social connectivity and participation in an association. It’s the way many associations and membership groups are finding that their members and prospects prefer to be engaged. You’ve heard it, “I don’t have time to go to the monthly lunch meetings.” Or, “Who can afford to take two days out of their schedule and attend the national conference, and how do I justify that to my association’s leadership?”

I submit “Sociassociation” is a level of membership that associations should begin to offer to members and prospects. Rather than offering the standard “under 30” membership dues discount, why not offer a “Sociassociation” membership level that is not discounted at all but actually is a premium because it provides access to a much deeper layer of content of personal and professional development from your association? Your organization can now offer the traditional “Association Membership” and receive value that comes in a more expected format, and, for some members, a preferred format. It could also offer a new level of membership, a “Sociassociation Membership” that provides access to rich and updated online content, forums, webinars and more.

Many associations are scrambling to add greater online resources for all of its membership to access. But does all of your membership really want it? And do they want to pay for it? Most likely not – online engagement is simply just not the way that some members prefer to enhance their personal and professional growth. They want, and need, the physical presence of others.  However, other members and prospects may prefer a purely virtual membership that exists online. For them, being a “Sociassociation Member” is just what they need.

I’ll continue to listen to members and three-year-olds more intently.